Defying routine at CMC (Part 3): Ignoring the stigma of failure

A host of programs encourages exploration and the value of making mistakes to test new ideas

The undergraduate years are a pivotal time when students are encouraged not only to try new things, but also to recognize an important fact:  Mistakes are necessary on the road to new ideas and self-discovery.

That principle motivates some of the most successful entrepreneurs, and it also serves as a guiding principle behind one of CMC’s central hubs for innovation, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), which was designed with students in mind and with the hope to foster an entrepreneurial spirit at the Claremont Colleges through creativity, initiative, collaboration and impact.

“What I’ve observed over the past few years is that student engagement in the entrepreneurship/innovation area is team-oriented and cross-disciplinary, which leverages the strength of a liberal arts education and a residential experience, says Janet Smith, Von Tobel Professor of Economics at CMC. “The student teams that work on entrepreneurial projects, for example, tend to form organically and comprise students from a variety of majors—philosophy and public policy, computer science, economics-accounting, etc.”

The CIE offers mentoring by alumni and advisory board members, pitch competitions, an annual 7-C start-up fair, workshops on such topics as how to generating ideas for new ventures, how to finance a new venture, how to develop a marketing strategy for a new venture, etc.

In May the CIE hosted the CMC Angel Summit to encourage more engagement of alumni interested in working with and financing ventures by current students and young alumni. 

The five-person student leadership team at the CIE is planning a 5-C “Wildfire” Tech Conference for the fall which will offer students the opportunity to learn about the frontier of technology via VR (virtual reality) demos, 3D printing applications, an array of speakers, and a networking event for all attendees.

“There is tremendous support for students and faculty to try new things without the stigma of failing,” Smith adds. “Failing is understandably an important part of learning, and an important part of the innovative process.”

Connected with the CIE is The Vanguard, an online magazine that offers CMC students a chance to research and write about new technology and innovation from their perspective. 

The publication has struck a chord as the number of “hits” to the site ( has been rising dramatically since publication.

Next: Part 4 -- The Alumni Factor